The great thing about Philadelphia is the support for the homegrown, instead of chain restaurants. Here are four chefs / restaurateurs who have made a mark on the Philadelphia restaurant scene, all with new places that have just opened or are coming soon.
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Chef Marc Vetri
Vetri, Osteria, Amis, Alla Spina, Pizzeria Vetri and Lo Spiedo in Philadelphia and Osteria New Jersey.
Vetri is a Philadelphia native who pursued a path to becoming a musician, but traded in his guitar for the chitarra when he realized his passion was cooking. He opened his first namesake restaurant Vetri in 1998. “I like to call it the mother ship. It’s just 30 seats and very intimate with a rustic, yet refined feel.”
It wasn’t until 2007 that he opened his second restaurant Osteria after wining the James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic in 2005. He now has seven restaurants and still finds time to play the guitar.
New Restaurant | Lo Spiedo
Located in the Navy Yard, Lo Spiedo is centered around a custom-built wood-fired rotisserie and grill. “The grill and rotisserie were built as one unit and are about 6 feet long. It means we can do many things at once. Burning wood imparts such a special flavor.” Marc recommends ordering the rotisserie chicken, the pork ribs, the spit-roasted octopus, the grilled chicken wings and for dessert, the cast-iron-baked apple pie. Besides the food, Marc calls this their most cocktail-centric restaurant on the Vetri Family roster. “We’re making just about everything in-house including tinctures, infusions and syrups. The Cotechino Milk Punch is very popular.”
“People may have been surprised when we announced we were opening in the Navy Yard, but it made sense to us. There’s a great energy here. We’re close to all the stadiums and arenas, so there’s an entirely different audience for us to feed.”
Chef Michael Solomonov
Zahav, Percy Street Barbecue, Federal Donuts, Abe Fisher and Dizengoff.
Solomonov has had a rocky road to success filled with heartbreak along the way. He grew up in both the US and Israel and in 2003 his younger brother was killed by sniper fire while serving in the Israeli army. At the time, Solomonov was working as a chef at Vetri. While he struggled with his grief, he turned to drugs. In 2008, he opened his restaurant Zahav. Through cooking, he found solace and recovery. His restaurants are inspired by his homeland and also pay tribute to his brother.
New Restaurant | Dizengoff
This is Israeli street food with a rotating selection of hummus and fresh-baked pitas, Israeli pickles, side salads and frozen lemonnanas.
New Restaurant | Abe Fisher
Somonov calls it “the cuisine of the Jewish diaspora.” You’ll find gourmet versions of gefilte fish and kasha varnishkes (with truffle butter) and a bit of fusion with dishes like veal schnitzel tacos and corned pork belly with Manischewitz mustard.
Chef Marcie Turney & Partner Valerie Safran
Lolita, Jamonera, Verde, Barbuzzo, Little Nonna’s. Shops include Grocery, Open House, Vere, and Marcie Blaine Chocolates.
Turney and partner Safran are credited with reviving Midtown Village’s 13th Street. Their first property was a chic housewares store called Open House. Turney describes the central Philadelphia neighborhood in 2002 as “porn bars, gay bars, drugs and prostitutes.” Safran worked in the shop and says, “back then the concierges would tell people not to walk down 13th Street.” Today the neighborhood is filled with independently-owned boutiques, bars and restaurants from gelato shops to beer gardens. Turney and Safran own five restaurants and four shops all within this one block.
New Restaurant | Bud and Marilyn’s (Opening Soon)
Named after Turney’s grandparents who owned a restaurant in Wisconsin. “This is going to be a throwback American restaurant that is an homage to them. But we are updating it, we’ll have Friday Fish Fry, a lazy Susan platter, and a relish tray. It’ll be American throughout.”
Chef Jose Garces
17 restaurants in 7 cities with Amada, JG Domestic, Village Whiskey, Distrito, Rosa Blanca, Volvér, Garces Trading Co, Tinto and Distrito Taco Truck located in Philadelphia.
Garces was born in Chicago to Ecuadorian parents and worked in Spain and New York before moving to Philadelphia in 2001 to work with Stephen Starr at El Vez. He opened his first restaurant, Amada, in 2005 and in 2009 was honored with the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award.
Garces has taken over the historic Bookbinders and turned it into an event space. In addition, he is opening Amada in downtown Manhattan, Novella at Newark Airport and an un-named project going into The Granary
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